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Gov. Walz surprises sign language interpreter by declaring March 9 'Nic Zapko Day'

Walz said Zapko is "by far the most popular person on this podium and the most well-known."
Nic Zapko and Gov. Tim Walz sign applause after the governor surprised her with a proclamation on her birthday.

Nic Zapko and Gov. Tim Walz sign applause after the governor surprised her with a proclamation on her birthday.

Gov. Tim Walz surprised sign language interpreter Nic Zapko on Tuesday, declaring March 9, 2021 — her birthday — as Nic Zapko Day.

Zapko, of Bloomington, has been by the governor's side in nearly every news conference he's done since the start of the pandemic, going viral for her expressive and accurate sign language interpretations. 

She also gained national and international attention for her animated expressions during news conferences about the civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. 

Zapko, who is a trained actor, knows the importance of using facial expressions to accurately convey the tone of what a speaker is saying because she is deaf, the Pioneer Press reported in a profile on the interpreter in June. 

On Tuesday, Walz ended his COVID-19 briefing with a surprise for Zapko.

"I want to take a point of personal privilege here ... there's been somebody whose been here since the beginning ensuring that every single Minnesotan had access to this information in real-time. That person is by far the most popular person on this podium and the most well-known," Gov. Walz said, while Zapko signed, apparently unaware of what was to come.

"I would like to make a proclamation today for Nic Zapko, our interpreter, who we've all come to really appreciate and enjoy," Walz said, with Zapko signing with a small smile.

Gov. Walz surprising Nic Zapko with the proclamation.

Gov. Walz surprising Nic Zapko with the proclamation.

Walz noted Zapko was "totally unaware I was going to do this."

Walz says in his proclamation that more than 20% of Minnesotans identify as deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing, and over the past year, Zapko "has provided critical ASL translations at the governor's near-daily press conferences to update Minnesotans on the status of the pandemic."

The governor says Zapko's translations ensure thousands of Minnesotans have access to real-time information that will keep them safe.

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"In her role, Zapko has gained local and national fame for her animated and accurate delivery of critical information, particularly when Minnesota has been on the national stage for the COVID-19 response and the civil unrest."

March 9 marks Zapko's birthday, Walz says, adding the State of Minnesota wishes her a "very happy birthday" and thanks her for her service.  

You can watch the surprise below (start at the 1:00:34 mark):

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